The celiac plexus block and the splanchnic nerve block can be used for abdominal pain that may be caused by irritation, compression or entrapment of the nerve bundles within various abdominal organs, including due to tumor invasion, fibrosis, or chronic inflammation resulting from chronic pancreatitis or Crohn’s disease, among others. In particular, pain attributed to pancreatic cancer responds very well to a celiac plexus blockade.
The celiac plexus and the splanchnic nerves are the names of the sympathetic nerves involved in the function of the abdominal organs. They are a dense cluster of nerve cells and supporting tissue, located behind the stomach, in the region of the celiac artery just below the diaphragm. Nerve signals to the majority of abdominal organs flow through the celiac plexus and the splanchnic nerves. This includes the pancreas, liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine, and the parts of the colon.
In a similar fashion, the hypogastric plexus is the name of the cluster of sympathetic nerves involved in the function of the pelvic organs such as the bladder, urethra, uterus, vagina, vulva, perineum, prostate, penis, testes, rectum, and descending colon. The superior hypogastric plexus sits just in front of the vertebral column at approximately the level of the fifth vertebral level and the first sacral level. This means that the plexus is located near the lower part of your abdomen where it joins with the upper part of the pelvis.
The celiac plexus and the splanchnic nerve block are performed to diagnose and reduce abdominal pain caused by conditions such as cancer or pancreatitis. By blocking these nerve collections, pain signals can be reduced from organs in the abdomen.
In a similar fashion, the hypogastric plexus can be blocked for severe pain conditions arising from pelvic organs that are non-responsive to oral medications. The hypogastric block may be performed just once for diagnostic information to determine if the pelvic pain is coming from pelvic organs. In addition, these nerve blocks can sometimes be given as a series of several injections, repeated at weekly intervals, for potential therapeutic benefit.
This procedure is safe. With any procedure, however, there are risks, side effects and possibility of complications. The most common side effect is temporary pain at the injection site. Other less common risks include bleeding, infection, spinal block, epidural block and injection into blood vessels and surrounding organs. There is also a very rare chance of injury to either the kidney or urethras. The urethras are the structure that connects your kidneys to your bladder. These risks are, again, extremely small and are even less likely when the procedure is performed under CT/x-ray guidance. Fortunately, serious side effects and complications are uncommon.